SUNRISE, Fla. -- It comes as absolutely no surprise that Tyson Nash has found some things to be different in the National Hockey League than they were in the American Hockey League.
The referees, for one thing.
"The older guys," Nash said, "they'll come over and say to me, 'Hey, Tyler, how ya' doing?' I try to tell 'em, 'It's Tyson. Ty-son.' "
In the AHL, all the referees and linesmen knew his name. They said it a lot, usually followed by the words "Two minutes for ..."
That part of the game hasn't changed for Nash, who is just as irritating to the opposition in the NHL as he was in the AHL. Perhaps more so, even. He leads all NHL rookies in penalty minutes and in hits, and is the Blues' top player in PIM.
GILBERT LIKED HIS STYLE
Nash's journey to the NHL lasted four long seasons. The first three were in Syracuse, where the parent Vancouver Canucks never gave him more than a sideways glance. When he became a free agent, though, IceCats coach Greg Gilbert remembered the way Nash played the game and thought he'd make a valuable player for the St. Louis organization.
The Blues signed Nash, but IceCats fans only had a chance to enjoy Nash for about a half-season in 1998-99. He was sidelined with a fracture in his back to start the season and really didn't get his game together until the last few weeks.
Because he had an abbreviated stint with the IceCats, their fans didn't get to see that much of the off-ice side of Nash. They didn't get to hear the radio show he had in Syracuse, "Talking Trash with Tyson Nash," and didn't get to read restaurant reviews like he has on the Blues Internet site.
STIRS UP TROUBLE
Worcester's best player down the stretch, and in the playoffs, Nash went to the Blues' training camp in September with a chance to make the NHL.
He was ready.
"I didn't want to have to look back on things," he said, "saying woulda, coulda, shoulda. Never before in my career had I gone to camp thinking I had a shot. It made the summer a little different."
Nash was his usual self here Saturday night in the Blues' 1-1 tie against Florida, stirring up trouble. Late in the first period, he ran into Scott Mellanby, knocking the Panthers' captain flat on his back.
Panthers enforcer Peter Worrell, always a fan favorite in his days with New Haven, retaliated by knocking down Nash. When referee Dan O'Halloran finished making his calls, Worrell was gone for two minutes on a roughing penalty and the Panthers had lost Mellanby for 10 with a misconduct.
DOESN'T LET UP
With the IceCats, Nash was never a player who took off a game. That was one reason Gilbert liked him in the first place. That mentality has been essential to Nash being able to stay in the NHL
"In the AHL," he said, "you'd play three games in three nights and by the third night, some guys would be taking it easy, and they'd still be able to get a point or two, and the team would still be able to get a win out of it.
"You can't do that in the NHL," he said. "You play a game every two nights and you can't afford to even take a shift off. That's the biggest thing I've learned."
Nash has become a bit of a cult figure in St. Louis, which is a long way from his days as a radio star in Syracuse.
Now, he's in the NHL, and even online. His column, for any epicurean fans, is called "Dining Out with Tyler."
Oops, that's Tyson, as even the veteran NHL refs will eventually find out.